Cliff Shelf Nature Trail, Badlands National Park

Nestled in the heart of Badlands National Park, the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail offers hikers a unique opportunity to explore the rugged beauty of the South Dakota Badlands. This moderate, 0.5-mile loop trail winds through a stunning landscape of towering rock formations, deep canyons, and sweeping prairies, providing breathtaking views at every turn. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a nature enthusiast looking for a leisurely stroll, the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail is a must-see destination for anyone visiting the Badlands.

Trail Highlights

Some of the the highlights of this trail are:

  • Offers stunning views of the Badlands formations and surrounding landscape
  • Features a unique cliff shelf ecosystem, with plants and animals adapted to living on the steep rock faces
  • Provides opportunities to see wildlife such as bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, and mule deer
  • Includes interpretive signs and exhibits that explain the geology and ecology of the area
  • Offers a relatively easy hike, with a total distance of just 0.5 miles
  • Provides access to other trails and overlooks in the park, allowing visitors to extend their hike and explore further
  • Features a boardwalk section that allows visitors to safely traverse the cliff shelf without damaging the fragile ecosystem
  • Offers a chance to see rare and endangered species such as the swift fox and black-footed ferret
  • Provides a unique perspective on the Badlands, with views of the formations from above rather than from the valley floor
  • Offers a peaceful and secluded experience, with fewer crowds than some of the more popular trails in the park.

Total distance: 0.5 miles (0.8 km)

Elevation gain: 200 feet

Difficulty: 1/5

Child friendly?

The Cliff Shelf Nature Trail may not be suitable for young children as it involves steep drop-offs and uneven terrain. It is recommended for older children and adults who are comfortable with hiking in rugged terrain.

Local Campgrounds

Camping is a great option as a base camp for the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail in the Badlands National Park.. Camping allows hikers to fully immerse themselves in the park’s natural beauty and experience the peacefulness of the Badlands at night. The best time to visit the park is in the spring or fall when temperatures are mild and crowds are smaller. However, visitors should be prepared for unpredictable weather, as the Badlands can experience sudden changes in temperature and occasional thunderstorms.

There are several campground options in the Badlands National Park area, including:

1. Cedar Pass Campground: This is the only campground located within the park and offers both tent and RV camping options. It is located near the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail and offers stunning views of the Badlands.

2. Sage Creek Campground: This is a primitive campground located in the northern part of the park. It offers tent camping only and has no amenities, but it is free and offers a unique wilderness experience.

3. Badlands Interior Campground: This is a private campground located just outside the park’s entrance. It offers tent and RV camping options, as well as cabins and other amenities.

4. KOA Badlands/White River: This is another private campground located just outside the park’s entrance. It offers tent and RV camping options, as well as cabins and other amenities.

Overall, Cedar Pass Campground is likely the best option for those looking to stay near the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail, as it is located within the park and offers easy access to the trail and other park attractions.

Other Activities

In addition to hiking, there are many other ways to discover this beautiful wildness. If you are planning a trip to Cliff Shelf Nature Trail, be sure to consider some of the following:

  • Fossil Exhibit Trail
  • Badlands Loop Road Scenic Drive
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Stargazing
  • Horseback riding
  • Ranger-led programs and hikes
  • Backcountry hiking and camping
  • Geocaching
  • Rock climbing (with permit)

Cliff Shelf Nature Trail FAQs

Do you need a pass? Yes, passes start from $15 for 7 days

Are dogs allowed? Yes, dogs must be kept on a leash on the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail in the Badlands National Park.

Is the trail well signed? Cliff Shelf Nature Trail in Badlands National Park is well signed, but it is always recommended to check with park officials or consult a map before embarking on any hike., is a site dedicated to all nature enthusiasts out there! We believe that spending time outdoors is not just a hobby but a lifestyle. Discover new places, and learn new skills.


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